For 15 of 18 of Ball State volleyball’s returners, playing at Big Ten school is nothing they haven’t seen before.
But none of them had to open their career at a Big Ten venue.
For the three incoming freshmen to the Cardinals lineup, this Friday will serve as their first NCAA Division I contest, as well as their first game against a power conference school.
But to Cardinals head coach Kelli Miller, Friday serves as just another game to help her newcomers get adjusted to playing college-level volleyball.
“I don’t view [playing at a Big Ten school] as that different,” Miller said. “I don’t think there’s a learning curve from it being at Indiana, I think it’s just a learning curve of playing division one volleyball, going from high school to playing division one college ball. For them, they play at a high level and we play at a high level. So I don’t think it would be that much of a difference when they get out there, it’s just a part of the process.”
The rest of Miller’s unit has experience playing at power schools, with Ball State’s last visit to a Big Ten team being last season at #19 Ohio State, which resulted in a 3-0 loss.
Ball State and Indiana saw each other earlier this year in the unofficial spring season, where the two squads split a pair of meetings. Miller said her team needs to be prepared for the physicality the Hoosiers bring to the table.
“Indiana is going to be a really physical team, they play in the Big Ten,” Miller said. “We played them this past spring and they’ve got some good, strong, physical attackers.”
Miller wants the team to focus on what they can control during Friday’s match to combat Indiana’s physicality, as well as a focus on doing the little things right.
“I think we’re going to need to out ball control them and now that’s really the unknown for them,” Miller said. “I’m not 100 percent sure on what they’re going to be bringing in the backcourt, but I know that’s one thing that I know we can control is how well we’re going to serve, pass and play defense. We got to put a big emphasis on making sure the things we can control, we do well, and for us it’s serving, passing and playing defense.”
As Friday’s match marks the end of the off-season, Miller said her team is happy to get out and play another team.
“I think everybody’s really excited, you know preseason you just got to grind through those two weeks and then you’re playing against yourself over and over and over and you’re excited to take on an opponent and I think that’s where we're at right now: just hungry to get in there and actually play another jersey on the other side of the court,” Miller said.
On Saturday, the Cardinals get matchups with Indiana State and DePaul before coming back to Muncie. The Sycamores finished last season 10-20, as well as 4-14 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
DePaul was 13-17 a year ago, posting a 7-11 mark in the Big East Conference.
Friday’s match against Indiana is slated for 7 p.m. The Cardinals then take on Indiana State at 10 a.m. the next morning and DePaul at 5 p.m. on Saturday evening.
All games of the invitational will take place at Indiana’s University Gym.